Nostalgia Like in Once More to the Lake Analysis

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Nostalgia Throughout these past few years I’ve noticed my parents restricted my freedom more and more as I grew away from adolescence and grew into adulthood. It had begun to finally frustrate me and the last straw was during Sunday dinner when my dad banned me from working a part time job. I was confused because with my age I really don’t need their permission but thankfully mom explained, for dad was a man with few words, about their unreal desires to keep me their kid forever and stop them from ageing away in time.

I felt horrible that through my dad’s eye he saw me as a walking, ticking time bomb reminding him of how old he is. At first I did not see the big deal about it, but then all of a sudden an overwhelming flood of fear consumed me when I realized that like my dad I also feared my age, for I no longer had and never could duplicate the comforts I had in my teenage High School years. These past 4 years of my life I had been pretty much care free occupying myself with typical teen stuff like homework, sports, and friends but now at this moment, minus the homework, it has all slipped away.

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The sports that dragged me from bed at 6 o’clock on Sunday mornings in order to get to practice in time, or the friends that would joke around until 1 am in my garage even though we had morning practice the next day, were all gone now that everyone chose their own path after High School. It was at that moment I realized that what White had experienced in “Once more to the Lake” was about the same of what both my parents and I had experienced through my shift from High School to College.

In White’s essay the theme is the passage of time and the changes that it brings. Returning to the lake after many years with his son, White confronts multiple changes as he struggles with the illusion that the world of his childhood, and his present existence within it, remain the same. On the first day of fishing he observes the campers swimming in the unchanged lake “one of them with a cake of soap” (55) and remembers that “over the years there had been this person with a cake of soap, this cultist, and here he was”. 55) This repeating figure is proof to him that everything is the same and “there had been no years”(55). However little by little he sees that technology and urban life is bringing changes. For example the outboard motor that replaced the inboards which when they “were at a little distance, the noise they made was a sedative, an ingredient of summer sleep. . . But now the campers all had outboards . . . “ and these “made a petulant, irritable sound; at night in the still evening when the afterglow lit the water, they whined about one’s ears like mosquitoes” (56).

Like beauty, we cant help but be influenced by the desire for youth. We crave this desire of youth for different reasons like vanity but for both my parents and for White it was to fulfill their feeling of nostalgia. In able to understand this feeling of nostalgia one must accept the fact that most of us have acquired a fear of death bestowed upon us by our predecessors. Like White’s experience of ecstasy for the lake, my parents remember the joy they had when they saw me as their baby.

However now that they see me as a working adult it has dramatically changed what they remember of ,what my dad used to call, “the good old days”. A similar situation to mine can be seen in “Once more to the Lake” when White sees his boy go into the lake as he described it “I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt, suddenly my groin felt the chill of death” (57).

It is at this moment that he realizes that time had not left everything as it was and that he had changed for he was his own individual, neither his son, at the onset of life, nor his father who probably passed away, but someone at the midpoint on his own path closer to death. Like White when my dad looks at me he sees himself and my mom graduating from High School trying to find their place in the world and becomes aware that he is way past that and closer to his own mortality. I must also come clean for I too felt this guilty pleasure of timelessness as much as both my parents and White had done so.

In my experience this sense of timelessness seems to have occurred to me during High School. I can clearly depict my daily routine of speeding through the crowded two story halls of High School, the long immature conversations I’d have with my teammates during our daily run in practice, or the crazy parties I would sneak off to in the middle of the night. High School was care free environment due to its “live for the moment” attitude it instilled in most of us. As time went by, graduation was near and like many others of my class this was one of my first encounters that I can remember of exhibiting nostalgia.

For us graduation was no longer just a transmission from one school to the other, it was a transmission from dependency to responsibility, immaturity to experience, it was the rest of our lives. Now that I’m in college whenever I look at my little sister who’s still in High School I see her the same way my father looks at me and White looked at his son. However I too have accepted the fact that the natural cycle of birth, childhood, maturity, and death are enduring, I too am subject to the natural course that leads to death.

Like White, both my parents and I see the birth of someone younger, be it son or sister, as a precursor of one’s own death. The irony of this idea of mortality is that while the newborn child is the executioner of his elders, he is at the same time the instrument of their immortality. In “Once More to the Lake” this idea is implicit, due to our sense of understanding that generation leads to generation, all the way back to the beginnings of time and forward until the species stumbles into extinction.

Although White will die his son will have a son who will be similarly nurtured and taken to the lake because he has “never had any fresh water up his nose and . . . seen lily pads only from train windows” (53). This child will also see the cultist with the bar of soap and share the timeless joke about getting soaked while swimming in the rain, and in his maturity will obey the parental instinct to guide and teach. The individual life is thus woven into the fabric of the cultural life, giving it continuity and renewed meaning throughout the generations.

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Nostalgia Like in Once More to the Lake Analysis. (2018, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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